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How Spotify spying on you – and how to stop it

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14 min. to read

Spotify spying on you even now and will soon catch you with its ads. Whether you’re listening to a playlist, on a run, or while cooking dinner, Spotify will tailor ads to fit your activity in the moment or even your mood.

Spotify also has ears and tracks on you

Facebook and Google are some of the biggest providers of advertising on the Internet. But Spotify doesn’t mind taking over that niche, either.

Opinion of expert
Daniel Ek
CEO, Spotify. Stockholm-born Daniel Ek is the cofounder and CEO of the streaming music service Spotify.
There is a lot of global uncertainty, but our business continues to perform very nicely around the world.

What’s more, the company has all the data it needs to do so.

Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Spotify on their phones, tablets, and desktops, most often staying on when they move from one device to another.

But unknowingly, with each new track they listen to, a playlist they add, or a podcast they share more and more personal information with Spotify.

Number of Spotify active users

Number of Spotify monthly active users (MAUs) worldwide (Source: statista.com)

Spotify receives more than 100 million new recordings every day. Each one gives Spotify a little more information about our personal lives.

“Spotify has an unimaginable amount of data about us,” says Bryan Barletta, creator of Sounds Profitable, a newsletter about AdTech and current podcasts.

Opinion of expert
Bryan Barletta
He is the voice behind Sounds Profitable. He started in the adtech industry so long ago that they used to ask, “Mobile advertising? Like on taxis?” (2008) before shifting into podcasting in 2015. His goal is to make in-depth adtech more accessible to readers and listeners.
We’ve always known that what you listen to, how you listen to it, and the actions you take at that moment are very intimate moments for every user. The information about your activity helps tailor ads accordingly when you use Spotify.

Spotify spying on you and understands the value of the data it has and of course uses it to market its advertising services.

Of the program’s 465 million monthly users, 195 buy a subscription to avoid listening to ads.

The other 200 million simply put up with it.

Opinion of expert
Spotify
Spotify is a digital music service. Spotify is a proprietary Swedish audio streaming and media services provider founded on 23 April 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.
The real-time data we receive about your activity isn’t just about demographics and device identifiers – the company also tries to identify users’ moods, tastes, preferences, and habitual behavior in certain situations

So what Spotify really knows about you and how you can limit the collection of your personal data?

How is Spotify spying on and knowing about you?

All actions you take on Spotify services are tracked by the company. Data is collected from all desktop and mobile apps.

Every time you press a button, turn on a song, listen to a playlist, search, shuffle tracks, and pause is logged into the system.

Spotify knows that you turned on a song called “Umbrella” by Rihanna at 08:03 and listened to it for a couple of minutes.

Opinion of expert
Bryan Barletta
He is the voice behind Sounds Profitable. He started in the adtech industry so long ago that they used to ask, “Mobile advertising? Like on taxis?” (2008) before shifting into podcasting in 2015. His goal is to make in-depth adtech more accessible to readers and listeners.
What’s interesting is that data from paying users who don’t listen to podcasts, and may never hear ads on Spotify, triggers this logical mechanism. They are the control group.

You then decided to type “break up” into your search and opened a playlist called “ANGRY BREAKUP PLAYLIST” that you listened to for 4 hours and 52 minutes without a break.

This behavioral data could easily be obtained by the company, which is very telling.

Back in 2015, when Spotify had just 15 million paid subscribers, one of the firm’s executives said that they were collecting “a huge amount of data about what people were listening to and where and under what circumstances it was happening.”

Number of Spotify premium subscribers

Number of Spotify monthly active users (MAUs) worldwide (Source: statista.com)

This gives the company an idea of what its users are doing at any given time. The music you listen to reflects how you feel, who you are with, and what you are doing.

To make the most of this, Spotify has invested heavily in the science of data analytics and has even used people’s habits to advertise more effectively.

For example, you might hear the following ad, “Dear user living in the Theater District you have listened to Hamilton’s soundtrack 5,376 times, would you like to go to his concert?”

This personalization of advertising can be beneficial for companies that want to draw people’s attention to their products.

Based on your behavior, Spotify makes certain “inferences” about you, with the results reflecting your interests and preferences.

That’s not the only data Spotify collects, however. If you really want to understand what the company knows about you, you need to read its privacy policy. It’s worth saying that this document is not small at all.

Opinion of expert
Pat Walshe
Pat Walshe is a highly experienced Data Protection Officer and Data Protection Advisor, privacy consultant.
I think they should use more concise language and succinct language. They could definitely be more succinct and put things in less complicated language.

He has previously been involved in an analysis of how Spotify manages available user data.

In general, the rest of the data Spotify spying on you and has about you is the information you provide to the company when you create an account.

This makes your username, email address, phone number, date of birth, gender, actual address, and country of residence available to it.

If you decide to sign up for a paid subscription, you will also provide Spotify spying on you with your credit card information.

Spotify has personal information

The company’s privacy policy states that it may collect information about cookies, IP address, the type of device you use, browser, operating system, and certain other gadgets connected to your Wi-Fi network.

Spotify can also collect “data from sensors responsible for the user’s movements and the orientation of your smartphone screen,” i.e., information from an accelerometer or gyroscope.

If you use Spotify’s voice control, the program will be able to record your commands.

In addition, Spotify gets additional information about you from other companies and services. For example, if you sign in with your Facebook account, the program will “import your data” from there, including your user ID.

Other “service partners” provide Spotify with information that includes IP addresses displayed on a map so the company can figure out what city and country they live in.

All of this data gives you virtually limitless possibilities for personalized advertising just for you. And it’s very likely that you won’t be able to refuse such advertising extensions.

Spotify ads

Spotify ads

The data Spotify collects is not uncommon – other apps and services you use sometimes get even more personal information about you.

But Barletta believes the advantage of Spotify is that the company feels closer to your personal life than Facebook or other social networks because it uses different algorithms.

Opinion of expert
Bryan Barletta
He is the voice behind Sounds Profitable. He started in the adtech industry so long ago that they used to ask, “Mobile advertising? Like on taxis?” (2008) before shifting into podcasting in 2015. His goal is to make in-depth adtech more accessible to readers and listeners.
You can’t upload anything, and you can’t talk to anyone. You don’t share pictures, you don’t share videos, you don’t send messages. But despite that, Spotify still knows what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling today.

It’s behavioral data that helps Spotify make great strides in personalizing ads.

The app’s privacy policy states that it can use the information it receives to personalize how the app works, troubleshoot problems, develop new features, market and advertise, and resolve legal issues.

Many of the personalization features are related to the systems that are responsible for recommending new songs and playlists.

It’s worth noting that Spotify’s advertising business is most tied to its growing podcast empire.

The company’s privacy policy says it works with “advertising partners” to share data and determine your “interests or preferences.”

Opinion of expert
Spotify
Spotify is a digital music service. Spotify is a proprietary Swedish audio streaming and media services provider founded on 23 April 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.
We can get certain data about you, such as cookies, mobile device ID, or email address, and infer your interests and preferences through information from our advertisers and advertising partners that allows us to place more relevant ads and measure their effectiveness.

The more relevant the ads, the more likely they are to be profitable.

Spotify is proving by example the fact that ads can be targeted to your mood and what you’re doing at a particular moment in time.

Do you like dance music? You’ll be shown appropriate ads.

Spotify dance
However, if you like folk songs, the ads will probably be different. Listening to a playlist called “Romance” on a Friday night?

The ads will be very different from the ones you’ll hear on Sunday morning while playing the “On the Road” playlist.

Spotify spying on you and selling ads based on what you do — it’s called real-time contextual advertising.

The company cites 10 different situations in which you might find yourself: relaxing, dining, playing, partying, traveling, cooking, concentrating, vacationing, studying, or working out.

Spotify even offers advertising promotion tips in said contexts.

This all comes in addition to other common categories of advertising, targeting parents; those interested in healthy eating and fitness; being an Android user, etc.

How to stop Spotify from spying on you

stop Spotify spying on you

There are several ways to limit Spotify’s use and collection of your data, but not many.

Opinion of expert
Pat Walshe
Pat Walshe is a highly experienced Data Protection Officer and Data Protection Advisor, privacy consultant.
There are some things that I think they could have thought of a lot better. Should be more transparency about how Spotify uses user data.

Also, more information should be given about how people can use the app privately. That could include adding special privacy checks from Spotify, where users can see their chosen settings.

But what can be done now?

You should turn your attention to the “Private Mode” feature, which is listening to music anonymously.

By default, your Spotify listening history can be seen by people who subscribe to you.

One way to listen to tracks privately is to use the “Private Mode” option, but you’ll have to turn it on every time you open the program.

mobile How to stop Spotify from spying on you

To activate this feature on your phone or tablet, go to the app settings, open the “Privacy” section and turn it on.

PC stop Spotify from spying on you

On a PC, it’s a little easier: you can click the down arrow in the top right corner of the program and select the “Private Mode” option.

While this mode doesn’t allow people who subscribe to you to keep track of what you’re listening to, it won’t stop Spotify from logging that information.

The company claims that what you listen to in private mode “may not affect” the recommendations in the music the program offers you.

The Spotify desktop app has one main privacy-related setting, though it’s hidden behind a series of different menus.

  1. Click on your username in the upper-right corner of the program, go to settings, and scroll down the page to get to more options.
  2. Here you’ll be able to block all cookies from being sent in this Spotify desktop app.
  3. In addition, in the advanced settings, you can choose whether you want to post new playlists, share your Spotify activity, and receive instant notifications.

Individual playlists can also be hidden by going to them and using the appropriate option.

Most Spotify privacy settings are accessed online through your account page.

This is where you can turn off targeting ads.

Go to your account settings under “Privacy,” and then change the settings to show personalized ads.

Opinion of expert
Spotify
Spotify is a digital music service. Spotify is a proprietary Swedish audio streaming and media services provider founded on 23 April 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.
If you opt out of targeted ads, we will still show you ads based on your Spotify registration information and your real-time usage of the program, but they will be less ‘tailored’ to you.

It’s worth noting that the number of ads won’t decrease.

While you’re looking at your privacy settings, you should also turn off data imports from Facebook – this will prohibit Spotify from using any information about you other than registration information that was obtained from that social network.

This page also allows you to download data about your activity, including search logs, music playlists, streaming history, voice commands you’ve sent, and things Spotify spying on you and thinks you’re basically interested in.

In the Spotify online settings, you can also see which applications have access to your account and disable the ones you no longer need.

For example, you may want to disable the old Alexa speaker that you previously used to play music or the AdGenerator tool.

Another aspect to consider if you’re listening to Spotify over the Internet is using a private browser that will limit the collection of third-party cookies.

It’s worth mentioning that a lot of companies give your data to Spotify in this way.

On iOS, you can prevent Spotify – and all other apps – from tracking your smartphone activity by changing the app’s transparency settings for tracking.

Opinion of expert
Spotify
Spotify is a digital music service. Spotify is a proprietary Swedish audio streaming and media services provider founded on 23 April 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.
To completely delete your information, you need to close your account.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to use Spotify without providing your personal information.

How to hide or unhide a song on Spotify?

You can hide tracks found in albums or public playlists, and then Spotify will skip that song if it appears in your play queue.
You can only use the "hide" feature on tracks via the Spotify mobile app — there is no way to do it from the computer desktop or browser, with a lone exception.
1. In the Spotify app, open a playlist or an album that has a song you want to hide.
2. In the track list for the playlist or album, tap the three dots to the right of the song you want to hide.
3. In the menu, tap Hide song (on iOS) or Hide this song (on Android).

Can You See Who Liked Your Playlist on Spotify?

Spotify used to let you see who liked your playlist on a detailed level back in 2013. However, the streaming giant got rid of this feature and didn't reimplement it. Now you can see a list of subscribers to your Spotify profile, but not who follows your playlists. So Spotify only lets you see the total number of likes on each playlist.
But if you want to see who likes your playlists by following these steps:
1. Select your library and then click your profile icon.
2. Then select ‘View Profile’ and tap ‘Playlists.’
3. A total likes count will appear below each playlist.

How to clear your queue on Spotify?

The Spotify play queue button is only available for Spotify Premium subscribers.
Android and iOS devices.
Open the current song in full-screen mode and tap the Queue button in the lower right corner. Tap the Clear Queue button next to Next In Queue.
For desktop apps and web player.
Click the Queue button on the playback panel at the bottom of the interface. Then click the CLEAR QUEUE button to the right of Next in Queue.

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